Chaos at the Capitol: Insurrection Disrupts Vote Certification

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Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Rioters carrying pro-Trump flags breach the barricades surrounding the US Capitol. (Source: Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Inaya Yusuf

As the 2020 presidential election results and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory were being certified, President Donald Trump delivered a speech telling his supporters to “fight like hell” and “never concede” (Washington Post). Afterward, at approximately 1 p.m. (EST) on January 6th, 2021, the crowd decided to do just that (NY Times).

Congress proceedings were interrupted as Vice President Pence, congressional lawmakers, and reporters were evacuated from both chambers (NY Times). Carrying Trump flags, Confederate flags, and QAnon signs, one wearing a Neo-Nazi shirt, chanting “stop the steal” and “arrest congress” among other statements, and avoiding wearing masks, the mob managed to scale walls, bypass barriers, and breach the Capitol Building (NY Times). Trump supporters aided efforts online as well, using social media sites such as Gab and Parler to share directions for avoiding the police, which tools to use to pry doors, and plans on bringing firearms (NY Times).  

The rioters first breached the west side barricades at the steps of the Capitol around 1 p.m. and stormed the east side barricades about an hour later (NY Times). Once they overran the final barriers and made it inside, they broke windows, vandalized various offices, and stole various items, including part of a sign from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office (NY Times). 

Around the same time that the riots began, pipe bombs in the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee were discovered and eventually defused (CBS News). Amid the chaos, Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a citywide curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., which has since been extended until 3 p.m. on January 21st (NY Times). The Capitol Police, DC National Guard, Virginia National Guard, Virginia State Troopers, F.B.I. agents, and Department of Homeland Security agents attempted to take control of the situation, deploying tear gas and flash-bang grenades, arresting 13 of the rioters, and confiscating five guns (NY Times). 

Numerous police officers were injured after being attacked by rioters. Officer Brian D. Sicknick died after sustaining injuries from being beaten by the mob, one woman was shot and killed as she scaled the building, one man died after a heart attack, and two other rioters died of unknown causes (NY Times). Finally, between 5:30 and 6 p.m., the Sergeant at Arms declared that the Capitol building had been secured (NY Times).

Initially, President Trump made a statement around 3 p.m. (EST) asking the mob to “stay peaceful” while continuing to repeat claims of election fraud (NY Times). Meanwhile, President-elect Biden urged Trump to “demand an end to this siege”, calling the insurrection “an assault on the rule of law” (NY Times). Later, Trump tweeted asking the rioters to leave and “remember this day” while assuring them that “We love you; you’re very special” (NY Times). By contrast, Trump had called peaceful BLM protestors “thugs”, “agitators”, and “looters”, threatening them with dogs and weaponry (NPR), making racial disparities even more apparent. After removing Trump’s tweets regarding the insurrection, both Twitter and Facebook have temporarily locked his accounts (NY Times). 

That same evening, lawmakers resumed counting electoral college votes, determined to show that democracy would prevail over violence (NY Times). The House of Representatives had begun to vote upon a resolution to remove President Trump from office based upon the 25th amendment, which would have Vice President Pence serve as an interim president until President-elect Biden takes office on January 20th (CNN). However, after Pence made it clear he did not support invoking the amendment, House Democrats plan to initiate a vote for Trump’s impeachment for “incitement of insurrection” (CNN).